What makes you happy?

I recently bought Issue #3 of “New Philosopher”, a relatively new magazine in the Australian market (click here to visit their website). This quarterly magazine is Australian made, advertising free, and full of fantastic, well-written, thought provoking articles. Issue #3 is focussed on the question, “Are we happy yet?” and it makes for fascinating reading.

New Philosopher MagazineI love this kind of writing: ideas that are simply and clearly presented leading to a pleasurable few hours where you turn the thoughts over in your mind. But this writing has really got inside my head – for days now. Why?

Reading the magazine follows hard on the heels of studying a book called “The Desire Map” by Danielle LaPorte with my women’s group. I confess that I haven’t enjoyed the latter at all. For whatever reason, answering a series of questions about things that I want, crave, need etc makes me very uncomfortable. I have everything I could possibly want and so much more in my life. How self-centred it seems to ask for more when I already have a wonderful family, good health, safety, security and much more material comfort than I will ever need.

So, what makes me happy? Well it turns out that the writers in “New Philosopher” magazine have put it rather well. For me, it is all about something called “flow”.  Damon Young discusses this in his article, “Happiness is hard to find”.

A more helpful idea from Aristotle’s eudaimonia is that of so-called autotelic activity: things we do for their own sake, and not for the sake of something else….we are measurably happier when we are involved in skilful, challenging pursuits….the experience is what we seek.

And then further along in the same article…

If happiness is an activity, and often an autotelic one, then it is developed by doing. Anxiously stopping to ask ‘Am I happy yet?’ is a fine way to stop the flow.

Another contributor, Antonia Case, discusses a similar idea in “3 Ways to Happiness”.

Meaningful work involves doing something that you personally enjoy, where you can exercise and develop your skills and capabilities, and where the end result of your toil is to produce something useful and worthwhile (regardless of what others may think). One person’s meaningful work is not another’s, and with good reason – we can’t all be nurses and teachers.

I don’t need a Desire Map to identify my “meaningful work” – I know already – I love to sew. I loved it when I was a little girl, a teenager, a young woman backpacking around the world, a professional woman, a wife and a mother. And now I am so privileged because I am able to pursue my passion full-time. Rare is the day when I don’t experience a little bit of “flow”, even if it is only thinking about sewing whilst I wash up or drive Mum’s taxi.

So please excuse me – I have had enough of writing about “flow” and I am off to experience it – to spend a blissful afternoon with fabric, needle and thread 🙂

Sewing (the artist's wife) by Hans Heysen, 1913. This painting captures beautifully how I will be feeling this afternoon.
Sewing (the artist’s wife) by Hans Heysen, 1913. This painting captures beautifully how I will be feeling this afternoon.

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